Flight paths at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport have negative health effects that will, on average, cost Marylanders in excess of $40 million per year during the next 30 years, according to a new study from Dr. Zafar Zafari and Jeong-eun Park at the University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy.
The report, titled “Projecting the Health and Economic Burden of Aircraft Noise,” focuses on the health impacts of concentrated flight paths at BWI Marshall since the Federal Aviation Administration implemented the Next Generation Air Transportation System in 2015.
The results of this state-funded study indicate that the projected economic advantages to the region of the new flight paths are significantly offset by their negative health effects, which were measured through quality-adjusted life years and the medical economic burden on affected populations.
The study states that the total cost of hospitalizations, as well as direct and indirect costs of disease and lessening of life outcomes, will be approximately $1.2 billion over 30 years ($800 million in today’s dollars). The study concludes, “Therefore, public health measures to mitigate noise are warranted.”
The DC Metroplex BWI Community Roundtable, an advisory group working on noise mitigation strategies, was a strong advocate for this study of health effects on communities living within the BWI airport flight paths.
“This study confirms what communities under the concentrated NextGen flight paths have been saying for years. We know that many people in our region live with unremitting, near constant noise many miles from the airport. No one considered the effect this would have on people on the ground,” said Debbie MacDonald, chairperson of the Roundtable. “Since the FAA has made it clear they are not going to substantially change NextGen, we need to talk about state and federal mitigations beyond wall insulation and window treatments.”
Funding for the study was appropriated through the Maryland General Assembly thanks to efforts by Senators Clarence Lam and Guy Guzzone and Delegate Terri Hill.
“As physicians, Delegate Hill and I have long suspected that the increased aircraft noise at BWI would have health implications. We now have quantifiable evidence that it’s not just an inconvenience and a potential reduction in property values,” said Lam. “The cost of billions of dollars of diseases and disability, not to mention reduced productivity and quality of life, need to be taken into account in any cost benefit analysis involving changes in operations or services at the airport.”